The Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) is set to issue disconnection notices to regular customers who are unable to pay their dues by the end of its grace period on October 31, but a spokesman said the power distributor won’t cut electricity just yet.
“We will be very considerate. Hindi namin priority yung magputol ng kuryente. Alam naman po namin kung gaano ka-kritikal ngayon sa ating mga kababayan, lalo’t karamihan sa atin ay work-from-home [at] nagsisimula na ang online classes,” MERALCO spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga pointed out on GMA-7’s Unang Hirit Thursday.
Zaldarriaga even emphasized that the country’s largest power distributor advances the generation charges customers are supposed to be paying.
MERALCO had initially extended its grace period to the end of October from September 30, though lifeline customers or those consuming 200 kilowatt hours or less were given until November to settle their dues.
The assurance follows a rally by consumer rights group People for Power Coalition (P4P) in front of MERALCO offices Wednesday asking for more leeway in paying electric bills by extending the grace period to the end of the year.
The P4P believes that MERALCO should give customers more time to settle their unpaid dues stemming from the Luzon lockdowns last summer and the sorry state of their finances in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Kailangan ng mas malalim na pagsusuri hinggil doon sa ECQ period na ‘yun kasi kami po ay [naniniwalang] may anomalya po [roon],” P4P convenor Gerry Arances said also in an interview on Unang Hirit.
Zaldarriaga called P4P’s accusation as “very unfair,” citing that MERALCO customers only account for 20-25% of all electric consumers nationwide.
“Hindi kami pupwedeng gumawa ng bagay na ‘di akma sa batas. It is devoid of any basis,” Zaldarriaga added in an ABS-CBN news report.
Meanwhile, Energy Regulatory Commission Chairperson Agnes Devanadera clarified that the grace period under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act only covers electric bills issued from September 15 to October 31. The grace period under the earlier issued Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act covers electric bill payments affected by the Luzon lockdown’s imposition.